Monday, June 27, 2011

Novel Places

There’s a new indie bookstore in town (if you happen to live in Clarksburg, MD, that is)!

novel places

Novel Places has just opened up, and they are having a Grand Opening Celebration this Saturday, July 2.

I’ll be there! So will fellow mystery author Donna Andrews and local children’s author Barbara Jean Van Meter.

And there will be food and fun (and books!).

Come visit this restored historic building and help Patrick Darby celebrate the grand opening of his new store (and his birthday, too)!

The deets:

Grand Opening - Saturday, July 2 from 10am - 6pm

11am - Presentation by State Senator Rob Garagiola
2pm - Mystery Author Alan Orloff
3pm - Mystery Author Donna Andrews
4pm – Children’s Author Barbara Jean Van Meter

Novel Places, 23341 Frederick Road, Clarksburg, MD 20871


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

8 Keys To Becoming A Successful Writer

Mark Terry

If you look up “professional writer” in the dictionary (you know, one of those fat, printed books with lots of unusual words), you may see Mark Terry’s picture. Freelancer, novelist, non-fiction author, short-story writer, blogger—he’s got all the bases covered. On his blog, This Writing Life, Mark calls them like he sees them, and he sees a lot. He’s blog touring to support his latest release, THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS (see below for details). Please welcome Mark Terry to home plate today! (okay, so I was in a baseball mood)

8 Keys To Becoming A Successful Writer
by Mark Terry

You can tell I’ve been freelancing for a living, with the “8 Keys To…” Could be anything: Marketing Your Medical Practice, Choosing New Carpet, Picking Out A New Toilet.

Anyway, I’ve written 13 books, over 600 magazine articles, over a dozen book-length market research reports and hundreds of web page content, directories, white papers, etc. Here are some things that I think can help make you become a successful writer (by whatever definition of “success” you choose).

1. Read a lot.

You would think this was a given, but it isn't necessarily. I have, for years, read rather broadly in the mystery/thriller/suspense area - cozies and PI novels and police procedurals and flat-out thrillers and espionage, etc. A few years ago I began to feel like my reading was getting narrower, so I consciously started expanding outside my chosen genres. I read nonfiction books, some sci-fi, some fantasy, some YA novels, some historical novels. I'm just trying to feed my brain a bit more.

2. Write a lot.

If you're a slow writer, that's okay. Just make sure you're a regular writer. Writing is a muscle and it can get flabby and atrophied if you don't use it a lot.

3. Collect a lot of rejections.

If you're not making a living as a writer and you're not getting very many rejection slips, you're probably not working hard enough. I’m a full-time freelancer and I’m constantly marketing and constantly being rejected. That's just the business. But if you've written a novel and you tried two publishers and they turned you down and you gave up, you gave up waaaaayyyyy too early. If you tried to get a dozen or even 50 agents to take you on and you gave up, you gave up waaaaayyyy too early. The market’s changed with e-books, but still…

My advice is this: don't quit until you've accomplished what you set out to do. Plan on getting an agent? Send queries until you've got one.

4. If you've published a novel, keep marketing.

This is hard. But I've often thought of my successes in almost all areas of writing as coming about from a kind of "constant push." I've thought of it as like me having my shoulder to a rock that I'm trying to move. If I constantly apply pressure, eventually it'll move some. And once it starts to move, I get some momentum going. Sometimes I try a big shove and sometimes I ease off (but not entirely; I always try to be at least leaning against that rock), but there's always some pressure going on.

5. Reach out.

I'm trying harder to help other writers. I wish I had had more mentors when I was struggling. There are limits to what I can do, but I am trying.

6. Stretch.

Like reading outside my immediate preferences, I think it's a good thing from time to time to try something different. I’ve been writing an SF novel for a year or two. I wrote a nonfiction book proposal that my agent is currently marketing. Try something different. It’s good for you. It works different muscles.

7. Allow yourself to hope.

But realistically. It's okay to hope you'll sell a novel for seven figures and get a hot movie deal and end up on Good Morning, America, but you might also get struck by lightning while taking out your garbage on a sunny day. It happens, but not often. But allow yourself to hope you'll get published, that you'll get an advance, positive reviews, and be able to build a readership. Hope big.

8. Have a life.

Writing isn't everything. I've said it again and again. Don't let this passion (obsession) ruin your life. If your happiness depends on getting a book contract, on becoming a novelist, on making a living as a novelist, on hitting the bestseller lists, you're letting your life be run by things you have no control over and letting people you've never even met have too much control over your life. Have a life. Makes friends. Pay attention to your spouse and children. Travel. See movies. Go to a museum. Take your dog for a walk. Play an instrument. Sing. Laugh. Go to the gym. Take up yoga or tai chi or macramé or soap carving or building life-size replicas of historical monuments out of beer cans. Live.

What did I miss?

Valley of the Shadows

THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS, is the fourth in the thriller series featuring Homeland Security troubleshooter Dr. Derek Stillwater, and it’s been getting some great reviews. Check it out, along with the first three in the series, THE DEVIL’S PITCHFORK, THE SERPENT’S KISS, and THE FALLEN, as well as some of Mark’s other works. Also be sure to visit Mark’s blog, This Writing Life.

Thanks for visiting the blog today, Mark!


Friday, June 17, 2011

Tips for Writing Away from Home

Elizabeth CraigElizabeth Craig/Riley Adams is one of the hardest working writers I know, writing multiple series at the same time, in addition to being a top-notch blogger and Twitter expert extraordinaire. I don’t know how she manages to juggle her writing with being a mother, either, but it’s truly inspirational. Why, she’s so busy, she needs two names! If you like fun mysteries, I highly recommend hers. Please welcome one of my favorite writing pals to the blog!

Tips for Writing Away from Home

by Elizabeth Craig

Do you ever write in cafes or coffeehouses? How about…swimming pools? I took my daughter and her friend to the pool the other day, intending to get some writing done while they entertained themselves. I was so organized, too—towels, goggles, snacks, membership card, sunscreen—but somehow the notebook that was in my hand didn’t make it into the pool bag.

Fortunately, the YMCA was obliging, even though they now think I’m a little odd. “Do you have any registration forms?” I asked.
The teenage staffer: “Registration for what, ma’am?”
“For…anything!” I answered.
There was a pause. “Day camp? Fall preschool? Gymnastics?”
“Yes!” I said.

Luckily, I got enough blank-backed registration forms to keep me in paper for the next couple of hours. (I had to write small.)

The pool isn’t the only place I write. Besides the usual cafes and coffeehouses, I’ve written at the park, at a bowling alley, skating rinks, Disney World…the list goes on and on.

Tips for Writing in Public Places:

Be prepared. Don’t be like me! Obviously, I’d run through my entire emergency supply of index cards when I ran into my problem at the pool. 4x6 index cards are perfect for writing—you can store them in your car’s glove compartment, or other small spaces. Pencils seem to be more reliable than pens (which have a tendency to be gloppy sometimes.) Have extra cards and notebooks with you, too, in case you run out of space in one notebook, or break the point on a pencil.

Voice recorders can be useful (if no one is close.) I’ve got a free voice recorder on my phone that holds a ton of recordings. Obviously, though, I’m going to restrain myself from muttering about murder if anyone is close by  :)

Shed your self-consciousness. Although you’ve got to be a little careful about the voice recorder, you shouldn’t worry in general about how you look when you’re out writing. Yes, I’ve had people come up and ask me questions about what I’m doing…usually they seem to think I’m sketching, which seems weird to me. I guess because I’m usually staring blankly around me as I write. But writing away from home really opens up a lot of possibilities if you’re open to the experience.

Choose a spot where no one knows you. Is there a local coffeehouse that’s a hangout for your friends and neighbors? It’s probably better to skip it and head for a spot a little farther from home if you’re genuinely trying to get some writing done.

Soak up your surroundings. There’s usually plenty of fodder for books in public places: you can find character traits, names, and other tidbits that can be worked into books.

An e-reader can be your friend. Load your files onto your e-reader for easy transport of your manuscript. Text files work best (at least for the Kindle), since PDFs can’t be enlarged. With your manuscript in tow, it’s easy to pick up writing where you left off, or check something from an earlier section of your manuscript.

Transcribe it before you lose it. If you’re writing away from home and don’t have your laptop with you, be sure to transcribe your scribbles over to Word when you get back home…before you lose them. I can’t think how many times I’ve had to search for small bits of paper that had important parts of my book on them.

Do you like writing away from home? Where is your favorite place to write? Any tips for writing on the go? And—many thanks, Alan, for hosting me today!

fingerlickindead--smallElizabeth’s latest book, Finger Lickin’ Dead , released June 7th. Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley (as Riley Adams), the Southern Quilting mysteries (2012) for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink.
Writer's Knowledge Base--the Search Engine for Writers
Twitter: @elizabethscraig


Thursday, June 16, 2011

School’s Just Starting

The welcome mat has been dusted off and put out for some special guests to the blog.




Tomorrow, the wonderful Elizabeth Craig joins us with some tips for writing away from home.


Valley of the Shadows



Next Tuesday, the terrific Mark Terry will pass along his 8 keys to becoming a successful writer.


Looks like we’re going to learn some new things in the next few days! Outstanding!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011


DSCF1557Back in April, I blogged about trying to be entertaining. I also mentioned the little stand-up routine I’d developed in conjunction with my KILLER ROUTINE promotional appearances. I’m here today to report on what transpired.

It wasn’t always pretty.

Here’s a dissection of my presentation.

I began with a few warm-up witticisms. “How many people have come to one of my events before?” “How many people have heard me speak more than once?” “How many people are just here for the cake?”

Then I talked a little bit about my books, and why I decided to write a series featuring a stand-up comic. To explore that fine line between comedy and tragedy. To have a suspenseful mystery with an “excuse” to include some humor. So I could watch Comedy Central and count it as research.

While the books in the Last Laff series are not funny-funny, there are spots where characters perform stand-up routines. I went on to explain the difficulty I found in writing a routine to be read and not performed. Without the benefit of the comic’s timing, delivery style, and attitude, the routine is apt to come off pretty flat on paper. To illustrate this point, I read a short bit I’d transcribed from a Brand-Name Comedian. Predictably (and with my delivery style), it indeed fell flat.

I described what I did to circumvent this. I chose a secondary character and had him perform at an open-mic night, where the comedy standards are, well, practically non-existent. I went on to explain how an open-mic night works and then I suggested we simulate one. Right there on the spot.

Who wants to go first?

That’s when I shucked my writer persona and donned my stand-up identity.

After writing a few crime fiction manuscripts, I realized I needed to do some research to learn more about crime. So I knocked over a 7-Eleven.

I discovered that my “comedy” went over better when there were more people in the audience, and that I fed off their energy.

All writers I know eagerly anticipate their reviews, and I’ve been fortunate to get some good ones, for both books. But my favorite review is about DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, and it’s from my son: “No offense, Dad, but that book is way too good to have been written by you.”

I’ve always held an admiration for stand-up comics. Now, it’s doubled. That’s hard work, getting people to laugh. Hard, hard work.

If you’re a writer, you will encounter rejection. A lot of rejection. That’s why you need a really thick skin. And I’m used to rejection, I really am. But lately, it seems like things have been getting worse:

Prince Makeenu of the Royal Family of Nigeria keeps refusing my checks.

Harry and David wouldn’t let me join their Fruit-of-the-Month Club.

Rejection just follows me around. The Salvation Army won’t take any of my old clothes. What’s worse, they won’t take any of my new clothes, either!

So far, I’d have to judge my experiment as a success. Many attendees made a point of coming up and telling me how much they enjoyed the presentation. They thought it was entertaining, even when my jokes bombed.

Now, I did notice a few uneasy looks from the audience, and I imagined them trying to extrapolate my writing ability from how I performed my comedy shtick. So to put people at ease, I made sure to sign books with the inscription: Don’t worry, my writing is better than my stand-up.

I hope they bought it!

(This entry was “simul-posted” on InkSpot)


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Same Bat Time

I’m thrilled to be guest blogging (the weekend shift) at Poe’s Deadly Daughters. Come visit to learn what I think about the use of…

(I guess you’ll have to click over to see!)


Friday, June 10, 2011

Down the Hall, To the Left

Here are the top ten things I get asked at book signings:

10. “Should I know who you are?”

9. “Do you live in a mansion?”

8. “Can I have a part in the movie version?” [Oh wait, that’s my son who always asks me this one]

7. “How come your books don’t have vampires in them?”

6. “Do you know James Patterson?”

5. “Are there refreshments?”

4. “If I give you a great idea, can you write the book and split the money with me?”

3. “Can you introduce me to your agent?”

2. “Have you written any good books?”

and the number one thing I get asked at book signings:

“Do you know where the bathrooms are?”


Monday, June 6, 2011

Free Books, On-Sale Books, and Raspberries

I was going to write today’s post about some free and on-sale e-books from a few Midnight Ink authors. But my writing pal Cricket McRae beat me to the punch on her Hearth Cricket blog, and she did a much better job than I would have done. So I’ll simply provide a link to her blog (along with my gratitude—Thanks, Cricket!).

And that gives me a few minutes to show off my insane wild raspberry patches.


This is the rear patch.



This is the front patch.



And this is a close-up.

Only about one month until pickin’ time!